I had my massage practice in Fairfield for three years when the opportunity arose to relocate to neighboring Bridgeport. When I decided to move from Fairfield, I contacted all of my clients.
I didn’t know there was a stigma about Bridgeport until I made the jump. It is only four or five exits off Interstate 95 from Fairfield, so I never expected there would be a problem. But after the move, I lost about 40 percent of my clientele.
People are always blown away by how absolutely gorgeous this office is.
Moving to Bridgeport turned out to be a huge, huge gamble. Why huge twice?
No.1, some people are afraid of Bridgeport. And No. 2, moving into a brand new office took a long time to build up this practice.
Why did I choose Bridgeport? I went to the map and I discovered there were 15 massage therapists in Westport, 15 in Fairfield, eight in Stratford and nothing in downtown Bridgeport. This was an underserved area. And I discovered this office in the Regus Building was amazing and at a great price, which made it financially plausible to make the leap.
But bringing the clients around to share my feeling was another matter. Bridgeport is an ostracized city because many people feel it is rundown and not safe. But people don’t understand how beautiful and cleaned-up downtown Bridgeport is; there are all kinds of shops here, and it is almost like New York City. And it’s very secure where my practice is based: We have the FBI, DEA and Homeland Security in this building.
As for my location, people are always blown away by how absolutely gorgeous this office is. They literally walk in and then walk out, thinking, “This can’t be right, this must be an attorney’s office.”
But there is a drawback: I am on the 11th floor of a tall building in the middle of Bridgeport, and inside the building you’re not allowed to post any signs. I am not a storefront, so I can’t put anything outside.
In order to bring in new business, I put a lot of emphasis on networking with the clients I already have. I am on Groupon, which is great for new clients and ups my exposure, as well as Google My Business. My business is also listed on InfoBridgeport, an information resource run by the Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District.
And, yes, there is a stigma on what some people think about when it comes to massage. When I hand out cards, I have to be careful to emphasize that we are well-trained and very professional. When you look up “massage” in Bridgeport on a search engine, you get some listings for things like “fantasy modeling” – I am usually the fifth one down the list and the only one offering a real massage. When I get not-serious inquiries, I say, “When you come here, you’re going to get a real massage – nothing else, buddy!” But, on the other hand, it is very easy for this practice to stand out.
As for the clients that did not want to follow me to Bridgeport, I did a lot to rectify that problem. I gave them deals and started up a satellite office at a friend’s practice in Westport that could accommodate those who were further away and genuinely could not make the trip to Bridgeport.
Since I’ve moved here, I am really starting to get a name in this area. People are starting to find me; they are seeing my cards around. I’ve had opportunities to work with athletes, most recently a minor league hockey player.
When Disney on Ice came through, I worked on some of the princesses. And the cutest thing is, they really are married to the princes. So my daughter and I went to see the shows and they waved at us from the ice!
Follow Rapha Massage on Twitter at @RaphaTechnique.
Photo courtesy of Lynn Mosher